Tag Archives: Fuzhou

Linguistics in the night

You walk places; you hear stuff.

I’m heading down Machang Lu this evening when I hear some woman on a phone. Whatever language she was speaking, it wasn’t the local version of putonghua. In fact, there was a lot of flapping. I don’t know whether it was Minbei or Minnan, but it didn’t seem to be tonal. I know we’ve got Philippinos and Indonesian students around here, but this woman seemed too old to be a student.

Then I went into the the DVD shop near Student Street. There were a couple of girls in there looking through the DVDs and speaking Russian, I think. I’ve never heard Chinese people speaking Russian before. They sounded like Uighurs to my untrained ear. Or they could’ve been from one of the ‘Stans. Do think so. The one girl I could see clearly looked 100% Han Chinese to me.

Dragon Boat Festival pictures

Sticking one’s oar in.

I thought I’d try and find my way to the temple across the river even if there were no dragon boats. However, as you can see from the pictures, the dragon boats were out plying the river, sounding their drums and cymbals and setting off firecrackers.

The temple itself, as I found, appears to have some connection with Thailand, and is costing ¥300K (c. £20K) to refurbish. There were the large incense sticks burning outside, and all the temples along the river seem to be active. In fact, there are a few more of them than I realised, as well as one or two shrines of a sort.

Row, row, row your boat

Round and round the stream…

I could hear the drums and fireworks again this morning and went upstairs to see what I could see on the river. There was a single dragon boat which seemed to be being rowed around in circles. I thought there might be races, but this was a single vessel. It appears that everything is centred on the temple on the other side of the river which, in  straight line, isn’t all that far away, but I’d have to go via Jiefang Bridge to get there. Actually, I’m cur­ious to know whose temple it is. I think it’s a fairly new one, too, because I don’t recall it being here when I first came to Fuzhou. Mind you, it might’ve been under green gauze until recently.

I managed to get copies of Tuesday’s and Thursday’s SCMP last night. The former had the story about the Skyrail accident. It also had a brief story about a 39-year-old teacher in Chongqing who seems to have died from apoplexy when she was scolding her pupils for playing cards in class. Prob­ably the woman was at the end of her tether with this particular class. I see from Thursday’s paper that drivers in Beijing are going to be fined if they don’t move their cars out of the way after accidents. The expressway be­tween Tongzhou and Beijing could get very badly clogged when there were accidents because they usually constricted the traffic to one lane and Chinese drivers, having no common sense, would jockey for position where we’d interweave with each other. I assumed that the cars were left in situ either because the police demanded it, or it was an insurance thing. Meanwhile, a single peach reached ¥138K at an auction in Guangdong. The money was for a good cause, but this is a good instance of con­spic­uous consumption.

The recent bad weather has resulted in floods here in southern China. The river level remains high and seems to be not so much mud suspended in water as water suspended in mud.

Return of the Red Mansions

Back on the hit parade.

Ta (or, Tuo) House signThis was a sign which caused me much bother back in 2007 because I didn’t bother reading the second character properly. It simply says the Ta (or, Tuo) House. The left-hand character is the trad­it­ional version of  庐 (lú) “hut, hovel”.

[10.08.14. Edited post. Got rid of a superfluous reference to A Dream of Red Mansions; added picture and tags.]

The Night of the Winged Insects

Fly, my pretties! Fly!

As I’m heading along the lane this evening, I notice that there are clouds of winged ants buzzing around the lights. I say “winged ants” for want of the correct name for these things. They don’t actually look very ant-like. Once they’ve flown about a bit, their wings fall off to reveal a long-bodied insect that bears no particular resemblance to an ant. When I got down to Yiyuan I found that there were no winged ants down there, although I did carry one with me after it landed in my hair. There goes the ecosystem.

By the time I got back from XXKX, the clouds had largely dispersed, but you could see a carpet of discarded wings on the stone walls and the former owners wriggling their way across it.

It really does say that

But what does it mean?

Yesterday when I was coming back from Metro, I noticed an establishment called the Haixin Quick Hotel (see photo below). That immediately piqued my curiosity because “quick” seemed to be seriously out of place. However, I went back this afternoon to get a picture and found that it did indeed say “quick” (快捷 kuàijié). As you can see, it’s still under construction.

But as I’m heading along that link between one part of Machang Lu and the other round the back of the high school affiliated with Fujian Normal University, I spotted some very new graffiti on what is probably the back wall of the school grounds. I can only assume that this is one or more of the pupils of this particular school expressing their pleasure at the realisation that they’re at a Chinese high school. I feel pleasure of a similar sort myself. It’s also pleasing to see an instance of the English language in active use in the community.

Ironically, there’s police guard post just nearby, although most of the time it’s never manned.

Things that go jump in the night. I was passing by the wall with the graffiti this evening and happened to see a small frog hopping towards it.

Nine years before the mast

And precious little to show for it.

Although we aren’t formally charged with teaching our pupils grammar, the nature of the tests that we give them means that we have to deal with whatever grammatical structure the textbook covers in each theme. It’s stuff that they should already know, but their grasp of grammar, in spite of their allegedly extensive knowledge, is often weak.

Today we were doing the perfect continuous (have been Ving). One of the questions for speaking practice was “How long have you been learning English?” After a few moments of counting on her fingers, one girl said she’d been learning English for nine years. Her score on the occasion of the last exam was equivalent to IELTS 3 (actually just short of 3.5). IELTS 8 or 9 is native speaker level. Although I might not expect someone to be as proficient as a native speaker of English after nine years (interspersed with other subjects, of course), I might expect such a person’s English to be better than IELTS 3.5.

[20.08.13. At the end of last term, Fred Voelkel and I interviewed some prospective students. I asked one how long he’d been learning English and got the same answer. Once again I thought Nine years and not much to show for it.]

All right, the joke’s over.

I went to the DVD shop opposite the gates of the university on Monday evening only to find that, Chinese films aside, it was very, very bare. I went again this evening, hoping that things might be back to normal. Wrong.

How many of them are there?

We went to the Macao/Portuguese restaurant last night to celebrate Glen’s birthday. But having hailed a taxi on Cang Qian Lu, we wondered where on earth we were going. I thought that he was taking a circuitous route because the route the driver had decided to take was blocked at one point. (I watched a car with military reg plates squeeze through a barrier only to note that the off ramp from the roundabout was completely blocked beyond that.) It turned out that Barby, who’d spoken to the taxi driver on the phone, had sent him to another branch of the same restaurant, this one being on the corner of 华林路 (Huálín Lù) and 鼓屏路 (Gǔpíng Lù), while the one we’ve been to twice before is on 八一七北路 (Bāyīqī Běilù), which is what Guping Lu becomes south of 天桥 (Tiān Qiáo).

If that’s not enough, there are three other branches, all with different names, on 湖东路 (Hú Dōng Lù), two of which are almost opposite each other.

Anyway, the food was very nice, and I noted as we left that there was a large half-node of amethyst, probably about 30cm tall and about 15+ cm wide at the base sitting on the counter. I’ve seen the price of these things somewhere in Fuzhou, and even the small ones are prohibitively expensive.

Don’t mention it

English Corner.

Just after the class before lunch, one of the pupils came up to me and asked, because the usual sign wasn’t out, if we were going to be having English Corner at lunchtime. I suggested that she should come anyway, but didn’t know one way or the other whether it was going to happen. But just as I was about to head off to English Corner myself, Todd knocked on the door wondering whether I’d knew if it was on or not. Some pupil had told him that it wasn’t. I found the others waiting outside the gate, which suggested, from a distance, that it was shut. Apart from the day when we have English Corner, the school gates are usually shut for an hour from 12.30pm, with no one being allowed in or out. According to one official source, we were meant to be having English Corner, but it was clear that we weren’t.

We didn’t have English Corner the week before the exams or the week of the exams themselves, although I don’t know why it never happened on the former occasion. We did have English Corner on the Sunday (i.e., fake Tuesday) before May Week when the kids from the Junior Middle Schools were meant to be massing. As I think I said, there was no massing. They appeared to be unaware of the event, merely being baffled by the sudden presence of so many foreigners.

So in the absence of English Corner today, I put my time to much better use – I went shopping.

The Roaring Boy [sic!]

More incessant yowling.

That bloody child is yowling again. I mentioned this particular imp a few posts back. We’re not talking about a baby or toddler. We’re talking about a child who has to be about four years old. I don’t know why he’s wailing, but he keeps repeating the same thing over and over again. From what I can tell, granddad seems to think it’s all a bit of a joke, and apparently doesn’t think that comforting the child or mollifying it might be a good idea (because the rest of us would get some peace and quiet). But to indulge this brat in such a fashion is merely to encourage it to continue. Since the kid is probably just seeking attention, why can’t it just ring a small bell like any normal little emperor?

While we’re talking about small children, I’ve learnt that the people at XXKX have a four-year-old daughter. This child suddenly appeared after the Spring Festival with some woman who, as it now turns out, was grandma (the actual mother looks like she shouldn’t be old enough to have a daughter this age). When Mr XXKX told me a few months back that they didn’t have children, he must’ve been saying that they didn’t have their daughter with them. He got her to give me the menu the other night, but she’s as shy as a Chinese cat. She already has a boyfriend, too – Waif Boy from the motorbike repair place. There was much distress when he was forcibly separated from his girlfriend when I was in XXKX one evening a couple of weeks ago.

(To understand the reference in the title of the post, click here.)

Less demand than expected

Hordes didn’t materialise.

English Corner ended up being a damp squib. I expected hordes of Junior Middle School pupils corralled into the area where we normally have English Corner, but there were just a few and they seemed to be sitting around with their parents having lunch. From what I could tell, no one seems to have told them that we had English Corner at lunchtime. We certainly didn’t need an hour and a quarter, and I ended up chatting with the usual suspects. It was only nearer the end that a few of them, probably on the urging of their parents, stood around and listened. Whether they understood much of what we were talking about is a moot point.

One of the things which came up was that maths test I mentioned the other day. [08.09.14. Post deleted?] One of the kids wanted me to write a letter to The Times about the state of English tests in China as a kind of corrective to views which foreigners might have about tests in China in general. Actually, I think he was more annoyed with some of the questions in last week’s English exam which clearly needed the guidance of a native speaker because it was one of those frequent occasions here when the question had almost no connection with the article and failed to focus on its theme.

It was not the only instance today when things turned out differently. I eventually found the classroom which we had to use today while our guests were using our classrooms to sit the test to get into the school. After some mucking around, we worked out how to get the projector working and, instead of art class, we continued watching the DVDs from yesterday. It was the better option since we had the whole of each class in the room.

As Todd noted, although it’d passed me by, Equilibrium is full of hidden rooms. Everywhere the hero goes, he’s always knocking holes in walls to reveal yet another. He always makes the hole just where the steps down into the room are located, even although he has no way of knowing they’re there. Even the hidden rooms have hidden rooms. And if that’s not enough, the electricity is working, or there are burning candles, or there’s a handy oil lamp, primed and ready, with a box of matches sitting beside it.